Again I fail my English test. Today Miss Chong make us do a Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar exercise. What happens is she give you a passage, and you are supposed to find all the Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar mistakes inside. At the start of test she say very loudly, There are Ten Mistakes In This Passage, and then you have thirty minutes to underline all the spelling and grammar mistakes and write the correct spelling or grammar on top of the word that is wrong. For punctuation you draw a circle if there’s supposed to be a punctuation there but don’t have. If the punctuation is wrong, like there’s an exclamation mark instead of a full stop, then you circle the exclamation mark and put a full stop next to it. I don’t know why but I can only find six mistakes. And two of them I correct wrongly so end up I got four upon ten. Which is a fail again. The girl who sits next to me, Shimin, always get eight or nine upon ten. Miss Chong make me sit next to her so she can help to improve my English. I like to draw pictures of Shimin’s face looking like a pig or a donkey. But the last few mistakes usually even Shimin cannot find, because Miss Chong will always put in some cheem words just to challenge us. Tricky words that we won’t know the correct spelling of, like “athletic” or “separate,” so even if she spells them wrongly we also don’t know.
My Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar is bad but I like to read. My favorite are magazines like 8 Days Every Week and Top of the Pops! I was reading Top of the Pops! under the table when Miss Chong was talking talking talking about I don’t know what again, something about either or neither nor and what is the verb agreement. I was looking at pictures of Britney Spears, can you believe she’s pregnant? She looks so fat! Then suddenly Miss Chong was standing beside my shoulder and she confiscate my magazine. Damn bitch. Top of the Pops! is a magazine from England okay. Got words like “snog” and “nosh” inside that I never see before. And “twat.” They never teach us these words in English class, they only teach us either or neither nor but no one talks like that in real life. So what’s the point of English class? Waste my time only lor. And worst of all waste my money, because Miss Chong never give me back my magazine. I bought it with my own pocket money okay. I bet after class Miss Chong go and read it in the staff room for free. For the rest of the period I give Miss Chong my most chao bin look, and when the bell rings she come to my table and tell me I better stop having this attitude. What attitude? Then Miss Chong ask me to show her my textbook. Die. All the time she was talking I didn’t do the exercise she was going through, I was drawing pictures in the blanks. I want to zao so badly but she was standing right in front of me, so I bo pian have to show her my textbook. Miss Chong give me her super angry look, and told me to stay back after school until I finish all the exercises she went through in class.
So because of the evil Miss Chong all my friends are watching a movie now while I’m in the library doing this stupid English textbook. If I don’t know how to do in class, how will I know how to do on my own? Miss Chong don’t know how to use her brain. The library is so quiet I can hear the sound of the fans squeaking. Lousy school with no air-con. When I study I like to go McDonald’s, then I can eat French fries. Before today I only came to the library once before, during our Sec One orientation at the beginning of the year. Only nerds like Shimin and her friends come here. There’s a big group of them with their thick specs sitting in one corner studying. If they weren’t so near to the librarian I would go and disturb them. Make one of them help me finish these exercises. When I push my chair back and stand up the librarian immediately look up from her book. Wah lau the woman got Sun Wu Kong ears or what? She keep looking at me like I’m going to do something bad or what so I tiao her back, then I walk over to one of the shelves and pretend to look at the books. Damn it lah, how am I going to meet my friends? By the time I finish they sure go home already. Sian man. If I know anybody in a gang I would ask them to scratch Miss Chong’s car.
The library got so many books I can’t believe it. Nobody in my family reads books, we only read newspapers. My father always say no point to read so much, better make sure we do well in Maths and Science then can become banker or doctor and make lots of money. I don’t know who is he bluffing. I know I’m in Sec One Express, which is the best stream, but my school is at the bottom of the rankings. And anyway I am near the bottom of the class. Fuck care lah. Miss Chong always say if we can make it to poly it will be a miracle. She say with our English standard so low how to make it to JC. We are only Sec One lor, I don’t know why she’s always talking about JC. But who wants to go JC and be a nerd anyway? I think when I’m older I will join Star Search and become a TV star. Or maybe become a radio DJ on 98.7 FM, DJs are so cool. Then Miss Chong will come and ask for my autograph, and I will laugh in her ugly face and tell her her English got no standard.
I’m so bored I pull out all the books with nice covers and flip through them. Who reads all this stuff? Probably all the nerds and stupid teachers like Miss Chong who have no life. So many trees died for nothing. Suddenly I saw this book with the title A Clockwork Orange. I got super excited, because my favorite color is orange. My schoolbag, my watch, my pencil case, all my stationary and even my pen color is orange. All my friends call me Orangina. I didn’t think about having orange books before, what a good idea! When I take the book down from the shelf I see the cover is orange, which is a very good sign. But when I open the book to the first page I feel like a big gong kia. I don’t understand anything. What the hell? Is this English? What is “droogs,” “rassoodocks,” and “flip dark chill winter bastard though dry?”
I don’t know why but I like the sound of these words. I try to read the first page again. There are these boys called Alex, Pete, Georgie and Dim, and they are in a milkbar drinking… I bring A Clockwork Orange back to my table and sit down to read. I’m not sure about the meaning of everything but I can guess what is happening. I never read such a crazy book before. In primary school I read Sweet Valley High, Goosebumps and some books by Christopher Pike. But even Christopher Pike never write about making an old man take off his clothes and hantam him, this woman at a shop they rob also kena, then got gang fight, then they whack this writer and rape his wife for fun… After I read the first two chapters I feel so sick I have to put the book down. I didn’t know books have such things inside, I thought books were just full of boring crap. And I don’t know why but the book make me want to read more, even if some of the things are so disgusting. Something is so exciting about it… So I pick up the book and start reading again, and I read and read until another terrible part where the guy Alex bring two girls home with him – uh oh – what’s going to happen to them – when a shadow suddenly appear over the book. I look up and see Miss Chong staring at me.
“Suzanne, what are you doing?”
“Improving my English. This is a really good book, Miss Chong.”
“Did I ask you to come here to read?”
“Did you finish the exercises I asked you to do?”
Miss Chong pick up the English textbook and flip to the page of the exercises. Then she throw the textbook down on the table. The librarian and all the nerds look up in surprise. Miss Chong look a bit malu, then she bring her face close to mine and look me in the eye.
“Suzanne,” she says in a stern voice, “You better buck up, you know. You’re only in Sec One and your attitude is already like this. How are you going to get anywhere in life? I asked you to stay back to complete today’s exercises, not read a storybook for fun. If you continue with this behavior I will have to take you to see the principal. You will stay back every day until I see that the grammar section of your English textbook is completed. The library closes in one hour. You had better try to get something done before I return.”
I stare at Miss Chong like she is an alien talking rubbish. Miss Chong sigh and turn to go back to the staff room. I watch Miss Chong walking out the door, and I feel like screaming. I’m in the library, you know, I’m in school, I’m not doing anything bad so why can’t you just give me a chance? Why can’t you sit down and help me? Why don’t you ask me what I really want to do with my life? Why you always tell me that I’m wrong, that I fail English? Miss Chong, you can make me stay back every day but I will read whatever I want. I won’t do your stupid exercise, I will make up my own. I can write my own English, I don’t care about your find the mistakes in Spelling Punctuation and Grammar, take your evil red pen away. I have rainbows in my eyes and I can sing a thousand stars exploding. My pen is orange the color of fire the color of the sun not clockwork and it will burn a hole through your cold white worksheet, through your exams, through your report book that says nothing about who I am and what I dream about. All your letter grades and numbers melt and turn into a dazzling orange you can’t ignore, an orange that will swallow you, chew you up and spit you out, an orange the color of a school bus that grows wings and takes to the sky, its engine collapsing into a heart with a thousand strings extending throughout the earth to whoever might need them. I hold on to one of the strings, and fly.